Holding On

 

 

“I’m sorry.”

 

Peter Parker had learned from his uncle Ben that starting with an apology was the best way to bridge an argument.  But he and Harry hadn’t actually fought and Peter had been apologizing about everything all his life.  It was doubtful the words meant anything anymore.

 

Harry Osborn’s shoulders were stiff and he didn’t turn around.  Peter opened his mouth and closed it again because he didn’t know what to say next.  How do you explain to your best friend that his father, Norman Osborn, had been a maniacal murderer known as the Green Goblin?  However, as Peter’s gaze traveled over the gizmos and gadgets in the dusty passage where they stood, it looked as though that goblin was out of the bag.

 

Dressed in street clothes, Peter tucked his hands in his jeans pockets and looked down at his feet.  He had come to the Osborn penthouse as soon as M.J. was safe in her fiancé’s arms.  Although it left an ache in his heart, Peter had resigned himself to the fact that Mary Jane Watson would be better off and in less danger as Mary Jane Jameson.

 

But Peter hadn’t resigned himself to the fact that he had lost his best friend, too.  He eyed Harry.  Bitterness and pain clung to Harry like a cloak.  Somehow, Peter had to make things right.  A secret room, hidden behind a broken mirror, with a pointed, green mask staring at him with yellow eyes, was as good a place to start as any.

 

“He didn’t want you to know,” Peter began, looking past Harry at the Goblin mask.  “I promised him I wouldn’t tell you.”

 

“Wouldn’t tell me that you killed him, you mean,” Harry said in a tight voice.  Anger, loathing, grief, and pain colored his tone.

 

“It was an accident,” Peter said, the acrid taste of death on his tongue.  “He tried to impale me with his glider, but it… got him, instead.”

 

Harry said nothing.  His left hand clenched in a fist, while his right tightened around the empty glass he held.

 

“I don’t kill people, Harry, no matter what the Daily Bugle implies.”  Peter closed his eyes against the half-lie.  People had died because of him, but never by his direct hand.  “I didn’t know it was your father until the end.  I would’ve tried to get him some help—”

 

“Instead, there was an ‘accident.’  How convenient.”

 

Peter winced.  He stepped back defensively into the shadows of the support pillars.  “I would never do anything on purpose to hurt you.”

 

Harry barked in harsh laughter.  “I think we’ve had this conversation before: you stole M.J. from me, you stole my father’s love and his life from me.  Since high school, all I ever heard was ‘Peter, Peter, Peter.’  If you don’t think that didn’t hurt like a knife to the gut, you’ve got another think coming.”

 

“Harry—”

 

“Shut up!”  Harry spun around and whipped the glass at Peter. With his mutant speed, Peter sidestepped the glass, letting it shatter against the support beam as shards bounced harmlessly off his back.

 

“Why didn’t you tell me?” Harry’s tone wavered, tears spilling down anguished face.  “Why didn’t you tell me you were Spider-Man?  Or that my dad needed help?”

 

“I didn’t know until it was too late,” Peter pleaded quietly with Harry.  “I would have told you afterward, but I had promised.”

 

“Sometimes promises are meant to be broken,” Harry gestured widely, encompassing the room, “especially when this is being hidden from me.”

 

“Your father didn’t want you to be disappointed in him.”

 

“Disappointed?” Harry’s voice raised an octave.  “He killed people.  The board members; people I knew all my life.  He dressed up as a freak, put your Aunt May in the hospital, and threw M.J. off the Queensborough Bridge.”  Harry’s eyes narrowed.  “And another freak rescued her.”

 

Peter’s shoulders hunched as he drew in on himself.  He’d just come to terms with being Spider-man, but one word from Harry brought his self-doubts and recriminations flooding back.  “I rescued a cable-car of children, too,” he mumbled defensively.

 

“Oh, yes, I’d forgotten about that.  You also saved half of New York tonight, too, I guess, considering I’m not dead.”  Harry clapped mockingly.  “Bravo, Peter.  Or should I call you ‘Spider-Man’?  Or how about just ‘Spidey’?”

 

Peter stared at his shoes.

 

“Hey, Pete, tell me: did Otto Octavius have an ‘accident’ like my father?” Harry snarled.

 

Peter bit his lower lip, trying and failing to blink back the tears.  It had been a mistake coming to the penthouse.  How could he think that Harry would ever forgive him or understand?

 

Harry moved suddenly and Peter reacted without thinking.  He was anxious, on edge, and exhausted from fighting Octavius all day, and he was stuck to the sloped ceiling before he realized he’d jumped.  Wide-eyed, he stared down at Harry standing below him. 

 

“Shit, Pete…”  Harry appeared awestruck, as if the last fifteen minutes hadn’t occurred.  “I mean, I knew, because you were in the costume, but I didn’t… Jesus, Pete, you’re on the ceiling!”

 

“Yeah, sorry.”  Peter rubbed away the tears and the tiredness from his eyes.  “It’s been a long day.  I’m kinda jumpy.”

 

“Jumpy.”  Harry’s laugh was somewhat unstable.

 

Peter smiled self-deprecatingly.

 

Harry continued to look at him, falling silent for a long moment.  “Pete, did you let my father die?”

 

Peter shook his head.  “It happened too fast, even for me.  I would’ve stopped the glider if I could.  I really liked your dad, Harry, except for when he put you down.”

 

Harry’s cheeks flushed with color suddenly.  He looked away and cleared his throat.  “What about his killing people?”

 

“I didn’t like that too much, either,” Peter said dryly.

 

“We can’t tell anyone,” Harry said, his gaze darting around the secret room.  “I don’t want anybody to know that Dad was… that he…”

 

“I won’t say a word,” Peter said.  He arched his wrist, affixed webbing to the ceiling above his head, and lowered himself to the floor in front of Harry.

 

Harry’s eyes widened again.  Peter halted his flinch when Harry raised his hand to stroke the dangling string of webbing.  “This is amazing.  You have to tell me what happened.”

 

“How much time you got?”

 

Harry smiled an off-centered, Harryish grin, reached across, and dragged Peter into a tight embrace.  “I’m not going anywhere, pal.”

 

Peter closed his eyes and held on to his best friend, as relief swept through him.  He knew things would be rough: losing M.J., patching relationships, balancing school, Spider-Man responsibilities, and holding a job, but he could handle it.

 

He hadn’t lost Harry. 

 

 

 

End

 

 

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